Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Mountaineers Climb Seventh Inning Hill to Dethrone Turners Falls

By John McGuirk (@Patsfan1313)

MONTAGUE, Mass. – Over the first half of the season, Wachusett Regional did faced much adversity, winning the majority of its contests with relative ease.

But on a warm Tuesday evening, the Mountaineers got more than their fair share of tribulation. Trailing by a run in its final at-bat, and down to its final strike, Wachusett miraculously stormed back to pull out a thrilling 10-8 triumph over Turners Falls

The big hit belonging to senior Jordin Laraia, who sent an outside fastball into the left-centerfield gap for a three-run double. Courtney Lanpher, who came on in relief with one out in the fourth, was able to set the Indians down in the bottom of the frame to earn the win.

"Turners is a phenomenal program," said first-year Wachusett coach Jason Lanpher. "They are the type of team that we like to play because they make us better. This was a heck of a game by both teams. Being behind is something we haven't dealt with this year so this was a good character building win for us. We struggled at times but still managed to fight back. It was a very good performance by our girls."

This meeting marked the third in as many years between the two schools. Wachusett has prevailed in all of them, winning 1-0 in 2016 and 3-1 last season.

"Tonight showed me that these girls can deal with some adversity, deal with pressure and still find a way to succeed," Lanpher said. "That is what we look for. Sometimes you need to get punched in the mouth in order to see how you react and that is exactly what happened to us tonight."

Turners Falls, the three-time defending Division 3 champion, showed they have no problem against stiffer competition.

The Mountaineers entered the seventh trailing 8-6. Abby Simes opened things by reaching on shortstop Cassidhe Wozniak's error. Reagan Lowe followed with a bloop single into shallow left. A line out ensued before Indians pitcher Peyton Emery walked Hannah White to load the bases. 

A SAC fly by Erin Hancock brought Wachusett back to within a run. After Lanpher was walked intentionally to set up a force at any base, Emery went after Laraia. On Emery's 0-2 offering, the senior right-hander tried to catch the outside black of the plate. Instead, Laraia didn't miss it, sparking a wild eruption from inside the Mountaineers' dugout.

"(Emery) is a good pitcher and I knew she was coming after me after she walked Courtney intentionally," said Laraia. "So I knew the pressure was on me. I just stayed patient at the plate and waited for my pitch.”

Wachusett got to Emery for three runs in the initial frame. Lanpher ripped an opposite field double to right and came home one out later on an errant thrwo. The inning continued on an Elizabeth Moore walk and a Brigid Griffin single to left that scored Arvidson. Moments later, Moore raced home courtesy of a wild pitch for a 3-0 lead.

But as expected, Turners Falls rebounded against Moore, Wachusett's starting pitcher. With Wozniak on base, Alyson Murphy clubbed a 1-1 fastball well over the left field fence for a two-run home run making it 3-2. Things quieted down over the next two innings before the Mountaineers offense erupted again in the fourth. 

With two runners on and two out, Lanpher notched her second double of the evening to bring home a run, upping Wachusett's lead to 4-2. Shortly thereafter, Laraia plated two more runs on a double to left. 

But yet again, Turners Falls answered. Emery reached on an error to begin things. With Eliza Johnson inserted as a courtesy runner, Olivia Whittier hit a comebacker to Moore. But the senior's throw to second was off target allowing Johnson to reach safely. Consecutive infield singles brought Johnson across the plate. One out later, Lexi Lacey banged a single to drive in Whittier. 

Lanpher then made the decision to replace Moore (5 hits, 2 walks, 3 K's) with his daughter in the hopes of getting out of the jam. After fanning Wozniak, Lanpher couldn't escape further trouble as Taylor Murphy blooped a two-run single to even things at 6-6. The Indians took the lead on Alyson Murphy's RBI single. 

Coming into Tuesday, the Mountaineers were allowing just one run per-game.
Wachusett saw an opportunity to climb back wasted in the fifth after stranding a pair of runners. In the Indians' half of the frame, they added a solo run on Sienna Dillensneider's SAC fly to lead by a pair.

The Mountaineers went down quickly in the sixth before their last inning heroics allowed them to secure victory. 

"They did a really nice job battling back the way they did," Turners Falls Hall of Fame coach Gary Mullins said. "On (Laraia's hit) we tried to pitch her up and away and she just got it. That was very good hitting on her part. She really whacked it. I thought we battled tonight

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